HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Fire Departments in Pasco County
This page was last revised on Aug. 18, 2019. Corrections and
additions are welcome via email to Jeff
VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
On June 27, 1963, the New Port Richey Press reported,
“C. A. Walters was appointed temporary president of the recently
organized Anclote River-Elfers Volunteer Fire Department at a Monday
night meeting at Elfers. Goal of the organization is a membership of
This article was taken from a 1964 publication.
The origin of the Dade City Fire Department can be traced back to
somewhere around the year 1915, at which time the Department consisted
of a group of ambitious volunteers equipped with a hand hose cart, a few
feet of fire hose, and a nozzle (Oh yes, and a fire axe). Even though
the spirit was willing , the fire loss still ran rather high in those
days. However, due to the constant effort of the City Commission and
citizens of Dade City through the years the Department was gradually
In 1920 the first fire truck was purchased and consisted of a Model
In 1946 the department was reorganized and two full time engineers
were hired. At that time two new trucks were purchased; a 1946 Peter
Pirsch 500 G.P.M. mid-section pumper and a 1946 Ford with a 500 G.P.M.
In 1963 the Department was again reorganized and now consists of a
full time Chief, Asst. Chief, and two engineers, as well as 16
volunteers. The Department at present has two pumpers, a tank truck
pumper, a grass fire truck, a rescue truck, and many other pieces of
supporting equipment, with a total dollar value of approximately
HIGHLAND FOREST VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
A booklet published by this organization, probably from the 1970s, reported that
the district covered an area of 48 square miles within the boundaries of County Line Road on the north,
one mile south of Highway 52 on the south, one mile east of U. S. Highway 41 to the east, and Hays Road/East Road on the west.
The address was given as Nine Little Ranch Road, Brooksville, with a
new substation one miles west of Highway 41 and ½ mile north of Highway 52 at Kent Grove.
HUDSON VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
See pictures contributed by Steve Mattix
In his 2010 history of the HVFD by Stephen C. Mattix, Retired Captain, writes:
In the early 1960’s the U. S. 19 Volunteer Fire
Department was formed. A truck was purchased for $900.00 It was
nicknamed “Big Kate.” Maybe two or three times a year there
would be a structure fire and some grass fires but rarely did U. S. 19
firefighters or Big Kate show up to fight the fires. A red truck doe
snot make a volunteer fire department. The Hudson Community Club became
concerned and their concerns were penned in letters to the U. S. 19
Volunteer Fire Department.
The Hudson Community Club had decided to start a new fire department
in downtown Hudson on the Community Club property. And now they needed a
fire truck. I. L. (Bob) Mawby, President of the Community Club, launched
a campaign and he sold enough subscriptions to buy the first fire truck.
The truck was found and purchased. Now they needed firefighters that
lived and worked in the area. Mr. Mawby knew Carl Mattix and he knew
Carl had four sons who lived and worked in Hudson. He went to Carl and
said, “Carl, you have four sons that live and work in Hudson. Do
you think they would be interested in becoming firefighters here in
Hudson?” Carl said he would talk to his boys. Mr. Mawby also knew
the Mattix boys were contractors in Hudson and this might be a plus in
the future. The Mattix boys agreed to become firefighters. Other men
were contacted: Robert Hatcher, Bill Elwinger, Herb Ruland, Jess
Willard, and H. D. Slim McAskill. A total of eight agreed. These eight
men were the first chartered firefighters of the Hudson Volunteer Fire
Department. We were given a dress fire hat and told there was going to
be a picture taken at the Community Club with the new truck and the new
firefighters. “So wear your new hat, a white shirt, and black
pants.“ The photo was taken and that was the beginning of the
Hudson Volunteer Fire Department.
The first fire truck was
purchased for $1,000 after an area-wide subscription program.
On July 28, 1964, the Hudson Volunteer Fire Department
answered its first call.
A building was completed in early 1965. The Hudson Marina
gave a station wagon that was to be equipped for
a stretcher, oxygen, and first aid supplies. According to the
history, this became the first rescue unit in western Pasco County.
Within a few months, two Brush trucks were added.
a new truck, to replace the first truck,
was purchased in Erie, Pennsylvania, and driven to Hudson.
By 1967 a Fire-Police car was in operation and a chief’s car was
received by donation. All firemen were trained and received
a Red Cross First Aid certificate.
a new John Beam Pumper was purchased to replace the older one, and
a second ambulance was placed into service.
In 1974 the Hudson VFD opened a sub-station at Embassy Hills. This facility was built by the volunteers.
The first president of the Hudson Volunteer Fire Department was
I. L. “Bob” Mawby.
On August 1, 1977, Pasco County absorbed the Hudson Volunteer Fire
MAGNOLIA VALLEY VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
In 1971, Jim Helm obtained a fire truck and parked it in his front
yard in Magnolia Valley. The family ran the Magnolia Valley VFD from
their home for about a year until the developer of Magnolia Valley
donated the land on Massachusetts Avenue where the station was
In December 1973 the new firehouse of the Magnolia Valley Volunteer
Fire Department was under construction on Moon Lake Road, near the
Magnolia Valley and Lakewood Villas subdivisions. Officers were elected
as follows: Fire Chief, Ray Lord; Assistant Chief, Jim Helm; President,
Rupert Bethel; Vice President, Ted Bass; Secretary, Robert Killion;
Assistant Secretary, Ray Lord; First Lieutenant, Floyd Baith. Chester
Hill and Ted Bass were elected to two year terms as Board of Director
members, and Ray Lord and Robert Russ to one year terms.
In July 1987 four fighters with the Magnolia Valley Volunteer Fire
Department were arrested and charged with setting fires in the areas
where they worked. At the time of the arrest, a Pasco County
Sheriff’s Detective said the firefighters could be responsible for
setting 50 fires during the past two years.
In 1988 a newspaper article reported that the Magnolia Valley
Volunteer Fire Department had four fire trucks and three rescue wagons.
In the previous year it answered 849 emergency calls.
In May 2002 the Magnolia Valley Volunteer Fire Department building
became Pasco County Station 29, under a merger of the two departments.
Magnolia Valley became the last large volunteer department to join the
countywide firefighting effort. Under the new partnership, volunteers
and paid firefighters provided the service together. At this time,
Anthony Lopinto was the Pasco County Emergency Services Director and
Scott Burford was the operations chief for the Magnolia Valley VFD.
MOON LAKE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
In February 1989, John T. Hildebrandt was appointed the new fire
chief for the Moon Lake Volunteer Fire Department. He had
been with the department for two years as a firefighter and lieutenant.
NEW PORT RICHEY
The first fire insurance policy written in New Port Richey
was for W. E. and Ralph Gillett for $600 on Feb. 28, 1916,
for their house on Central Boulevard, according to the
recollection of Gerben DeVries. The next policy was
written on March 6, 1916, for $1,500, on the Methodist Church.
[Earlier insurance policies were probably sold by
companies in Dade City or elsewhere.]
In 1917 the business people of New Port Richey purchased
a Model T Ford heavy duty fire truck, according to a history of the
department read in a 1965 speech dedicating the new fire station.
However, a 1917 purchase is not
mentioned in other accounts and perhaps the speech is misdating the
1922 purchase described below. According to the 1965 history, this
truck did not have a pumper; instead, it had a tank in which
the water was carried. Water was obtained from Emil Nyman,
who had a large water storage tank.
On March 23, 1922, the New Port Richey Press carried the
VOLUNTEER FIRE BRIGADE NOW FORMING
On April 13, 1922, the New Port Richey Press
reported that two meetings of the New Port Richey
Fire Company have been held recently, chaired by President J. W. Clark.
It was resolved to eliminate incorporation proceedings as costly and
unnecessary. It was decided not to deposit the checks from
subscriptions until the entire amount of $1,500 was raised in cash. It
was resolved to erect the fire hall of corrugated iron.
New Port Richey, with its state wide reputation for progressiveness, is
about to take another step forward in the path of civic development.
While men are this week busy laying water mains in the
central district of the town, committees from various
civic organizations have taken steps to establish a
Volunteer Fire Department. This means adequate
fire protection for New Port Richey and all the surrounding
The proposed plan is set forth in the application form
in full at the bottom of this page. A fire alarm system will be
installed, and the chemical truck with its volunteer crew of fire
fighters will respond to every alarm, no matter where the fire is.
With organized effort, adequate equipment and a trained
crew it will be possible to check a fire, even in the outlying
districts, and prevent its spreading to other
homes or buildings.
When this system is installed an in operation local
agents will make every effort to secure a substantial reduction in
An outlay of at least $2,000 will be required to secure
the necessary apparatus and organize the department.
Memberships are now being solicited from those
who own homes or buildings in Port Richey, New Port Richey
and vicinity, all of whom will receive the full benefit
of the fire protection thus afforded.
Committees from the Non-Partisan League, Civic Club and
Library Associates are behind this movement. They hope to have the necessary
pledges in hand by April 1st, when a meeting of all members will be
held to elect officers and directors, and to choose a fire chief and
crew of volunteers to man the chemical truck.
In 1922, New Port Richey purchased a truck which was apparently
an Ajax Chemical Engine mounted on a Ford chassis at a cost of $2000.
On Sept. 21, 1922, the New Port Richey Press reported,
"The new fire engine was housed in its new home the other
day, and it certainly looks a useful instrument. It is fully
equipped with chemical extinguishers, fire ladders,
axes, spades and other paraphernalia generally
found useful at a conflagration."
On Sept. 28, 1922, the New Port Richey Press reported, "A
meeting of townspeople interested in the new fire department was held
in the Palms Theatre on Tuesday night, when a brigade was formed, with
J. W. Clark, Jr., as chief and L. R. Colby as assistant chief. The
other members were T. Payson, J. S. Jackson, W. C. Preetorius, F. I.
Grey, W. A. Casey, C. Lockard, R. Meyers, Sims, Meeth, G. Warner, E.
Carlton, J. Johnson, J. Lindsay, A. J. Fisher, B. Davis, L. C. Poole,
F. Luikart, A. Copeland, W. Shendle. The members are resident in the
centre of town, and consequently will be within easy call if their
services are required. The fire engine and appliances are suitably
housed in Main street, and the night marshal Meeth will be in charge of
the alarm during the hours of his watch."
On Oct. 5, 1922, the New Port Richey Press carried
NEW PORT RICHEY FIRE DEPT.
In a 1976 newspaper interview, John W. Beijar recalled, "The first
truck was an old ton and a half Model T.
Old Jim Clark had that before we started the fire department and kept
it in a little tin building on Main Street across
from Potter’s parking lot. Then when we got the American LaFrance we
was in another tin building on Missouri Ave."
Philip Weachter recalled in the same interview that homes often burned
down because of a lack of water.
"With the heavy load of water, you just couldn't get down those sandy
roads. And when you were out of water that was it. We didn't
have any fire hydrants."
In the event of Fire breaking out in the town or district of
New Port Richey the Ice Plant will notify the fact by a series
of blasts, arranged as follows:--
One long and one short blast refers to the business section
of the town.
One long and two short blasts refer to the west side of the
One long and three short blasts refer to Palm Haven.
One long and four short blasts refer to Old Port Richey.
One long and five short blasts refer to district east of the
In July 1925 the American LaFrance fire truck arrived,
having been shipped by rail to Tampa and driven to New Port Richey.
The truck was tested by pumping water from the river,
and a second test was conducted for the benefit of city council
by pumping water from Orange Lake. The truck cost about $7,000,
according the recollection of George Sims. J. W. Clark was fire chief
at this time and Earl Krim was the assistant chief. Krim
was put in charge of the care of the two trucks and was given
a salary of $20 per month. Next in command
were Floyd Sampson and Johnnie Johnson.
City council decided to keep the old Ford fire truck at the
request of Fire Chief J. W. Clark, who said that the smaller
truck, which carried chemical equipment, could be used for many
The new water works system had not yet been completed, so at
this time Orange Lake and the Pithlachascotee River were used
as natural reservoirs to which the pump was attached.
In January 1926, James W. Clark Jr. resigned as fire chief.
He had held that position since the city was incorporated and was
one of the chief organizers of the fire department.
He was succeeded by Harold Sheets.
A 1926 report on the fire department indicated the city had
one American LaFrance type 10 triple combination 600 gallon-per-minute
pumper carrying one 40-gallon chemical tank, two five-gallon
chemical extinguishers, 200 ft of 3/4-in chemical hose,
and 1000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose. The report said that
a volunteer fire department was being organized at that time and
that the fire truck was kept temporarily at Gulf Utilities
Co. Ice Plant until erection of a fire station.
New Port Richey’s first fire engine (?)
According to 1930 newspaper article, on November 16, 1926, a meeting was held in the
Maxwell Building to discuss the requirements of the city,
and on November 22, a permanent organization was formed.
At this time the personnel consisted of George Holbrook, chief;
H. S. Rothera, president; F. O. Bechtol, vice president;
Robert Sims, secretary; Frank Steele, treasurer;
Fred H. Swafford, captain; and Mike Olson, Walter
Beijar, Keith Sims, P. B. Holmes, Ed Laughtenslager Jr.,
and Charlie Sims. Larry Fenton was assistant chief.
From time to time new members joined until
the full quota of 24 men was reached. Under
Chief Holbrook’s orders frequent drills were
held, the fire truck was put into good shape, and the
fire house was rebuilt.
In 1928 a small truck was purchased for about $3,000, according to
the recollection of George Sims.
The New Port Richey Press of July 20, 1928, carried an
appeal for contributions to purchase smoke masks for the New Port Richey Volunteer
Fire Department. According to the article, the cost of each mask, with
goggles and respirator, was $6.00. The department had 24 volunteer men,
but only 12 were on duty at one time, so 12 masks were needed. The
article identified the fire chief as George Holbrook.
Between 1926 and 1932 the fire department was located
near the Hacienda Hotel.
A July 1929 newspaper account of a fire reported that the fire
department had used both the big LaFrance and the new Pirsch fire engines.
In 1930 the fire department was incorporated as
New Port Richey Volunteer Firemen, Incorporated.
The subscribers to the charter as incorporators were: Clifford C. Arnett, Walter Beijar, R. W. Fralick,
George S. Holbrook, Gale Lapham, Walter Little, John de Mello, Robert E. de Mello, M. N. Olson,
H. S. Rothera, J. Sarment, J. L. Shelton, Robert W. Sims, Keith A. Sims, and Robert E. Tibbits.
A 1933 report on the New Port Richey fire department indicated
that it was a volunteer department with one chief and 15 men. There was
one station of iron-clad construction on the north side of Missouri
Avenue. The department had one American-LaFrance type 10 triple
combination pumper, chemical and hose truck, capacity 500 gallons per
minute, carrying 650 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, one 40-gallon chemical
tank, 200 ft. chemical hose, 2 hand chemical extinguishers, one 12-ft.
roof ladder and one 20-ft. extension ladder. The department also had
one Model A Ford ladder and hose truck, equipped with booster pump and
two 70-gallon booster tanks and 500 ft of 2 1/2l inch hose. A 1000-ft.
2 1/2 inch hose was in reserve.
In September 1935, the New Port Richey fire department patrolled
the town all night during the Labor Day hurricane.
A 1938 newspaper article listed active members as Spencer A.
Bentley, Chief; Joseph Fraddosio, Assistant Chief; James E. Grey,
Lieutenant; Wilson Fowler, Lieutenant; Theodore Arnett, Mitchell
Caraway, Albert Melville, William Bristol, Johnny O'Hara, William Boyd,
Fred DeCubellis, Gardner Foskett, James Vickers, Richard Marrs, Robert
Sims, E. P. Scofield, Forrest Skeen, Roland Fraddosio, Jack Lewis,
Lester Hill, George Whisenant, Raymond Arnett, Henry Falaney, Pete
Frierson, Curtis Falany. The article said that, of the group, Mitchell
Caraway, Albert Melville, William Bristol, Richard Marrs, and Forrest
Skeen were trained first aid men.
Fire destroys the Palms Theatre, 1938
In a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in 1938,
George Sims wrote, “New Port Richey has had two
fire trucks for the past ten years. The big one was
bought in 1925 at a cost of about $7,000 and we have
only recently finished paying for it. It was
a second hand truck when we bought it but we
have had 13 years of good use out of it. We also have a
small truck which was bought in 1928 at a cost of about
$3,000 and we have only just finished paying for that.”
In November 1938 the New Port Richey City Council
declined to approve the request of Fire Commissioner Tom Staley
to purchase a new fire truck at a cost of $3,600 or $3,100,
depending on which manufacturer was selected. It decided
instead to put the decision on a ballot. During the meeting
Fire Chief Spencer A. Bentley, in response to a question
from the Mayor, said that the present large truck was
not safe to operate. The Mayor ordered him not to move
the truck on the streets as a measure of public safety. The
city residents voted in favor of the purchase.
On Feb. 10, 1939, the New Port Richey Press reported that New Port Richey city council
approved the purchase of a new truck from Peter-Pirsch & Sons Co. for $3,750, with
an allowance of $200 for the old LaFrance truck "which has been in use since 1914."
The article quoted Fire Chief Bentley as saying the equipment was expected in 45 days.
In April 1939 the new fire truck, which cost about $3,600,
was delivered. It was temporarily housed in the Ravenhall storage
garage with the other fire equipment until the new fire
hall on Main Street was completed the following year.
The building, at 109 East Main Street, was built with WPA labor and
It housed City Hall, the fire department, and the library.
On June 9, 1939, the New Port Richey Press reported that the
two city fire trucks were placed in the new fire hall last weekend.
The new fire station, city clerk’s office, and public library
were located in the same new building.
New Port Richey Volunteer Fire Department, 1940.
A photograph of the men of the New Port Richey Volunteer Fire
Department with the new truck parked in front of the new City
Hall-Library-Fire Hall on Main Street appeared in the New Port
Richey Press on Feb. 9, 1940. In the photo are Wilson Fowler, 1st
Lieut.; Spencer A. Bentley, Chief; R. W. Sims, President; Joe
Fraddosio, assistant Chief; James Grey, 2nd Lieut. Standing (left to
right): Henry Falany; Joe D'Accardi; Dick Marrs, First Aid; Mitchell
Caraway, First Aid; B. H. Gaines; Lester Hill; John O'Hara; James
Vickers; James Weiskopf; Bob Foskett; Curtis Falany; Bill Fraddosio;
Ted Arnett, Electrician. Not pictured was Clyde (Micky) Poole.
In January 1945, the New Port Richey Volunteer Fire
Department named Henry Potter to serve as Fire Chief again
and Joseph Fraddosio was named assistant chief.
Officers elected were Robert Sims, president; J. H. Isaac,
vice-president; Russell Thomas, first lieutenant; Yancey Gamble,
second lieutenant; H. J. McIntyre, secretary and treasurer.
On Mar. 3, 1950, the New Port Richey Press reported: "New Port Richey’s
brand new fire truck pulled into the city yesterday morning and the imposing
piece of fire fighting equipment drew admiration of onlookers while
the firemen took it on practice runs supervised by factory representatives.
The machine, designed in its equipment by local fire chief Spencer A. Bentley,
cost upwards of $10,000 and is calculated to aid greatly the efficiency
of the local fire department. Last night, the Mack Co., makers of the truck,
tendered the firemen a banquet at Alexander’s Restaurant, included
in the guest list being members of the city council, W. L. Cobb, fire chief
and police head of Brooksville, and others."
Oscar Embry by a New Port Richey fire rescue unit at
A photograph in the New Port Richey Press of Oct. 11,
1956, shows New Port Richey Fire Chief Ray Ernest
and volunteer firemen Rupert Bethel, Robert Sample, Bob Russ, Fred
Koning, and Thomas Weiskopf. They are standing
next to a four-wheel drive truck recently purchased by the department,
especially adapted for fighting brush fires in remote areas.
New Port Richey’s new fire trucks, 1959
A 1963 brochure published by the New Port Richey Volunteer Fire Department is here.
In May 1965, speaking at the dedication of the new New Port Richey
attorney Richard J. Milbauer recalled:
When I first remember the fire department most of the
in town were operated by one person. When the fire siren
would blow, the business men would put a sign in their door,
"Gone to the fire," similar to the ones you see today when
they are out to lunch.
In addition to their regular duties, the firemen took up the
job of checking all of the fire hydrants and water
mains in the city in an attempt to have adequate water pressure
in the event of fire anywhere in town. At the time
the city could not afford but one man in the water
department so the men of the fire department rendered this
additional service to the community.
During the second World War, there were not many
men in New Port Richey, as a result of which the Junior
and Senior high school class members would leave class
when the siren blew and help fight the fire.
Up until a few years ago the property which is now
Potter’s IGA Super Market, their parking lot and the
laundry building was vacant land. Once a week on Thursday
evening the firemen would hold practice drills at this
location and many of the town’s people would come to
watch their volunteer firemen in action.
The new New Port Richey fire department building was dedicated on
May 14, 1965. The principal speaker was Richard J. Milbauer, who listed
some of the past fire chiefs: H. R. Rothera, Henry Potter, Spencer A.
Bentley, Robert Sample, Joe Fraddosio, Ray Ernst, and Charles Trufant,
who was the current chief. Milbauer said that there were currently 21
members in the department and that they met on Thursday evening at
In 1970 Dave Melden, a former New Port Richey policeman, was named
the fire chief of New Port Richey.
According to a 1974 newspaper article, at that time several of the then
predominantly volunteer firemen walked out
and formed the Magnolia Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Melden
converted the department to one staffed by only
paid firefighters. In a 1974 newspaper interview, Melden said, "I
admire volunteers, and I think they serve a need,
but I felt that paid men would serve the city better. Paid men are more
dedicated and they are easier to train."
In 1973 Capt. Roy R. Miller reported that the New Port Richey
Fire Department had twelve active, salaried firefighters. The
department had three pumpers (a 1950 Mack, a 1971 Ward LaFrance, and a
1973 Ward LaFrance), a 1971 rescue van, two cars, and a 1964
Jeep Rescuba Squad, which was added in July 1973.
In September 1974 the New Port Richey Fire Department opened its second
station, on High Street. The station, built for about $65,000 by John
Earl Larson, consists of a two-story central section flanked on either
side by truck bays. According to a newspaper article in 1974, one of
the bays housed a 1,000 gallon-per-minute Class A pumper that was
purchased for $40,000, and the other bay would contain an $18,000
mini-attack pumper which was then on order.
An article in West Pasco’s Heritage (1974) reported that
"Under the leadership of fire chief Dave Melden, the
department has increased its efficiency through intensive periodic
training classes for the
department personnel as well as hospitals, schools,
nursing homes, etc., in proper evacuation procedures,
use of fire extinguishers and updated fire fighting techniques.
Inspection of buildings and businesses are made at regular
intervals with continued vigilance maintained for the safety of
all citizens." In 1977-78, Melden, then in Tampa, served as President
of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association.
In 1984 Roy R. Miller became the New Port Richey Fire Chief.
Miller had become a volunteer firefighter in July 1971, and when a
firefighter position opened
in June 1972, he applied for it. The pay was $1.88 per hour.
In December 1991 the New Port Richey City Council voted 4-0 to
discontinue negotiations with Pasco County
about consolidating fire services. County Emergency Services Director
Amador Gonzalo had estimated the city
could have saved as much as $700,000 if the county had taken over.
On October 4, 1993, the expansion of the main New Port Richey fire
station at 6333 Madison Street was dedicated.
On June 1, 1994, Roy R. Miller retired as the New Port Richey fire
In November 1994 Harold W. Burns was hired as the
New Port Richey Fire Chief. At this time the department had 25
employees. Earlier that year the city obtained a new
fire truck with a 75-ft. ladder.
In December 1995, Daniel Azzariti, 39, an 18-year-veteran of the
New Port Richey fire department, was named its new chief.
He succeeded Harold Burns, who had resigned in September.
New Port Richey Station No. 2, Dec. 2003
In 2003 the New Port Richey Fire Department had its main station
at 6333 Madison Street and a second station
at 6121 High Street. The department consisted of 26 career personnel
along with 20 part-time
firefighters under the direction of Chief Dan Azzariti.
Scene from a Prom Promise presentation at Gulf High School,
May 7, 2004
In September 2008 Dan Azzariti retired as New Port Richey fire chief after 31 years with the department. He had held the
top position since 1995. He was succeeded by Alex Onishenko.
The New Port Richey main fire station in 2009
PASCO COUNTY EMERGENCY SERVICES
In 1982 Amador Gonzalo
was hired as the emergency services director of Pasco County. He held
the position for 13 years. The fire department training center is named
after Mr. Gonzalo, who is credited with integrating the county’s fire
and ambulance services, as well as upgrading equipment across the fire
In April 1988, county emergency workers took over the Highway 52
Volunteer Fire Department building at 10417 Frierson Lake Drive in
after the County Commission voted to provide emergency protection to
the area. Under the terms of its charter, the Highway 52 Volunteer Fire
Department gave all of its assets to the county.
The VFD had disbanded a few days earlier following an internal dispute
over disciplinary procedures
planned against the group’s assistant fire chief.
In June 2000 Matthew Ballaban, director for Pasco County’s
Emergency Services, ended his five-year tenure with the county.
In December 2003, the Pasco County Fire Rescue website indicated
the department had a total of 18 stations, fourteen
of which were combined fire and rescue stations, one of which was
rescue only, and three were combat only. There are also three
The organization had approximately 290 paid professionals and over 100
volunteers, along with a support staff of approximately 50 people. It
is a cross-trained department in which all of the paid fire fighters
are required to be trained as EMT’s and
emergency medical personnel are required to be trained as firefighters.
Pasco County Fire Rescue began as a career fire department in 1974.
The website listed these personnel:
Director of Emergency Services, Anthony Lopinto;
Administrative Services Chief, Allan McCray;
Assistant Chief, Christopher Alland; and
Fire Marshal, Larry Whitten.
On May 20, 2005, Pasco County Fire Rescue workers voted 159-136 to unionize.
A Tampa Tribune article at that time reported that the department was unionized by the Teamsters
for about 15 years until that local union dissolved in 1998.
In June 2006 a new county firehouse in Embassy Hills began
operation. It was located at 6700 Rielly Court, and replaced
an older facility at 9506 Crabtree Lane.
On Oct. 21, 2008, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the
new Heritage Pines Station No. 39 at 11630 County Line Road, just south
of the Hernando County line.
An advanced life support firetruck with a paramedic on board, a brush
truck, and a 1,500-gallon tanker are
based at the station that has two drive-through bays. The living
quarters sleeps seven employees.
PORT RICHEY VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
Port Richey Fire Department, early 1960s
A 1964 booklet gives the following history of the Port Richey VFD:
The Volunteer Fire Company of Port Richey, Florida, Inc.,
was incorporated on June 30, 1960, with a charter membership of 35
members. Some of these, because of age and other factors, were
considered to be only honorary charter members. Actually, the company
had its beginnings several months earlier when some of the younger
citizens of our city, anticipating the time when the city would be able
to establish its own department, attended the Fire College classes when
they were held in New Port Richey. Then the city purchased a 1921 model
American LaFrance pumper strictly for use in training work. During this
period, fire protection was furnished Port Richey under contract with
New Port Richey and some of our men were volunteers with the New Port
Richey department. Late in December of 1960 the city placed its order
for a new 750 gallon American LaFrance pumper for delivery in the spring
of 1961. Having contracted for new equipment with no place to house it,
a crash program to build a combination Fire House and City Building,
complete with training and recreation room, City Clerk’s office,
Mayor’s office, and City Jail was initiated. In a rare
demonstration of cooperation and civic spirit, the building was
completed, using city funds and donations of money, material, and labor,
in time to receive the new pumper on April 27, 1961. At this time Port
Richey assumed the responsibility for its own fire protection and the
fire company has established a very good record for itself with only one
total loss and that one due to receiving the alarm too late for any
hope. Improvement of the department has continued and at the present it
is alerted by an automatic system which rings 18 firemen’s phones
simultaneously on dialing the fire department.
When the Port Richey VFD was organized,
Basil Gaines was Fire Chief and Francis
Fisher was Assistant Chief. Members were Russell Locastro, Harry Clark,
James Cardnell, Edwin Speller, William Sakelson, and Harold Lorenzen.
On Nov. 3, 1960, the New Port Richey Press printed a photo with the caption, “Port Richey Fire chief
Basil Gaines, left, and Assistant Chief Harry Clark, prepare to take a spin in ‘Honey Girl,’ 40-year-old
American-LaFrance fire truck purchased for $300 recently from the St. Petersburg Beach fire department for training
purposes. Chief Gaines and other members of the newly organized Port Richey fire department figure that the
expenditure for the ancient fire wagon was a wise investment, since the oldtimer is performing admirably.”
Another source identifies the truck as a 1921 Ward LaFrance fire truck.
Later in 1960 the Port Richey city council voted to purchase a new LaFrance fire engine at a cost of $17,296.
A used Army Dodge was purchased by Port Richey in 1965 and entirely rebuilt by the volunteers to
be used as a brush fire truck. With the aid of the ladies auxiliary,
the Port Richey firemen were able to purchase a 1966, four-wheel drive,
three-quarter ton truck to be used as an off-the-road fire control
In 1974 the Port Richey Volunteer Fire Department had 19 active
members, all volunteers. Chief Wilbert Wellman
had two assistant chiefs, Joseph Donahue and Vic Miller.
In 1987 the Port Richey Fire Department, which had been strictly
volunteer, hired its first paid employee, according to a 1988
In 1993, Port Richey fired and then rehired its fire chief Dennis
Smith. He was succeeded later in 1993 by Tim Fussell, who was hired as
part-time fire chief. Fussell had been
a Pasco County fire-rescue chief for 22 years.
In May 1993 Port Richey City Council voted to buy two used fire trucks
for $95,000 to replace the city’s current
pair, one of which did not run. They were a 1980 Mack fire truck with a
stainless-steel water tank and 22,000 miles on it
and a 1982 "E-1" truck with 19,000 miles and an all-aluminum body.
Port Richey Fire Department, August 2004
SAN ANTONIO VOLUTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
This article is taken from a 1964 booklet.
The San Antonio Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1947, at
which time Al Vogel was elected our first president; Eddie Flicker, vice
president; Bert Atwater, Fire Chief; and Walter Barnes, Engineer.
Prior to 1947 the community’s only fire protection was a two-wheeled
hose cart that had to be connected direct to the fire hydrant.
Our first fire truck was a 1914 American LaFrance purchased from the
Lake City Fire Department in 1947.
In 1949 new officers were elected and consisted of Frank Hill as
Chief, Ralph Jones as Assistant Chief, with Henry Pike and Wallace
Dawson as Engineers. A 1946 Ford with a Howi 500 G. P. M. midship pump
was purchased in 1953 from U. S. Navy surplus.
New officers were elected in 1956 and consisted of Ed Storch as
president, Eddie Herrmann as vice president, Frank Hill as Chief, Donald
Storch as Assistant Chief, Mrs. Betty Korchak as secretary, Oscar Nelson
as treasurer, and Hugh Dunne as Engineer. During 1956 the need for a
tank truck was becoming apparent, so a 1550-gallon fuel truck was
located in Jacksonville. It was purchased and converted to a very
efficient tanker fire truck so as to handle fire calls when a source of
water is not available.
In 1961 two way radios were installed in the two fire trucks and four
of the firemen’s cars.
In 1962 we purchased a brand new Chevrolet two-ton truck chassis and
transferred the equipment from the 46 Ford so that it now carries a
400-gallon booster tank, 1700 feet of hose, a 500 G. P. M. midship pump,
and a 300 G. P. M. front-mount pump.
The present officers are Ed Storch, president; Hugh Dunne, vice
president; Donald Storch, Chief; and Fred Steiert, Assistant Chief and
A picture from the article is
SOUTHWEST PASCO VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
The Southwest Pasco VFD incorporated in October 1965 according to a
June 1966 article in the Tampa Tribune.
The 1966 newspaper article reported that the group consisted of 22
volunteers and has acquired three fire trucks, a garage, and a meeting
place. It reported the fee to obtain fire protection was $4 per year and
that at present there were over 1,800 paid up memberships with a
potential of 4,500. The article reported that the volunteers are
supervised by H. E. Strauber, who had 20 years experience as fire
commissioner in New York State, and R. C. Auld, a retired fire chief
with over 30 years experience. The President was Jerry Austin.
On April 28, 1973, the Southwest Pasco Volunteer Fire Department
dedicated its second station at 260 Dove Drive in Colonial Hills in
TRI-COMMUNITY FIRE ASSOCIATION
This article was taken from a 1964 booklet.
The Tri-Community Fire Association was formed by a few residents of
Lacoochee, Trilacoochee, and Trilby for the purpose of obtaining some
fire equipment with which to train and maintain a volunteer fire
department to serve the surrounding area. Anyone can be either an
active or honorary member of the association. We meet the second and
fourth Tuesday of each month at Lacoochee at 7:30 P.M. The association
is also a member of the Pasco County Fire Association.
The first meeting was held at the Lacoochee school on September 29,
1961, and with the help of Mr. Wm. Brewton was chrartered by the state
of Florida on November 28, 1961.
The officers for the first few months prior to a regular election were:
Mr. Ben Leasure, president,and Mrs. Owen L. Powell, secretary and
treasurer. The elected officers were: Mr. Danny Roberts, president; Mr.
Joe Hillman, vice president; Mrs. Mildred Leasure, recording secretary;
Mrs. Owen L. Powell, treasurer and corresponding secretary.
We have raised money with turkey shoots, auction sales, talent shows,
horse shows, and rodeos, and donations. Our rodeo arena is located on
highway 301 just north of Trilacoochee on the property of Mr. M V. (Shorty)
Daley. We have held our annual Fourth of July rodeo and many
horse shows at this arena.
After much time and effort, on June 25, 1963, we had the opportunity
to purchase a truck through Civil Defense. It is a 750
gallon 1946 model Chevrolet ex-Navy tank truck and of this date
is equipped and ready to fight fire in our area which has been
extended to include the Ridge Manor area. We are now trying to
prepare an extra tanker to use to haul water to the fire truck.
We are also working toward getting property and building a fire
Chief Danny Roberts holds training sessions every Monday
night at 7:30 and invites everyone to come for training.
We would like to thank all the people who have helped in getting
us as far as we have, but we need a lot more help so we can
go a lot further. We will be running a membership drive soon so
watch for our members.
U. S. 19 VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
The U. S. 19 Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., held its
organizational meeting on Dec. 7, 1959. It received its Florida charter
eight days later. Forty members
attended the organizational meeting at the old fire hall at Hudson. The
first elected officers were James Englhert,
Richard Olson, Ed Rumminger, W. Jackson, and H. Fredfield.
A truck was purchased for $900. It was nicknamed “Big Kate.”
This organization apparently failed
to develop into a significant firefighting organization.
He Recalls the Days of Area’s First Fire Department
This article appeared in the West Pasco Chronicle on July 3, 1968.
I first came here to visit my brother, who like myself had been
released from serving Uncle Sam
during that long distant First World War. My brother came here in the
early spring of 1922 and opened up a garage.
I came down in the fall of the same year, October 15 to be exact.
After the first week of fishing (and it was good
in those days) I tired of fishing. Being accustomed to chasing rainbows
and due to the fact there were very few
people of my own age group, or I might add any other age group, I got
to the point where I would say to myself:
"If the Good Lord lets me live until tomorrow, I will leave this
However, as time passed the few families living here saw the need
for fire protection, as this area consisted mainly of underbrush,
palmetto scrub, rattlesnakes, wildcats, and wild pigs. So through
donations and various methods a Model T chassis was purchased. A
builder volunteered to build a body on this chassis.
The next step was to equip the truck with fire fighting tools,
again it was donations, and auctions. Finally we had our fire truck
with chemicals, ladders, plus a few five gallon water tanks, that you
strapped on your back and worked with a little hand pump. A couple of
rakes, four shovels, axes, eight water pails and a 14 foot ladder was
also included in our equipment. Now we were ready to do battle with
come what may, be it fire, rattlesnakes, wildcats, hurricanes, etc.
Those fellows volunteered for any and every hazard that might come up
to help others keep out of danger.
Our first fire station consisted of a 12 by 14 frame, floorless
building covered by sheet metal, sides and roof. It was on the lot east
of the Chasco Inn. On the Boulevard side it was low and every time it
rained we would have a good mud hole for the pigs and a swimming hole
for the ducks! If we had to go west to the boulevard to answer a call
it would be necessary for someone to chase ducks and pigs out of the
street so the truck could get through without scattering animals in
After the town was incorporated the fire
station was moved to the corner of Bank St.
and Missouri Ave. It remained there for
several years. Many streets were paved and
the pigs and ducks lost their playgrounds to
It was while the truck was at this second
location that one day when answering a grass
fire in the north east part of town, we passed
the school house (now city hall) I noticed a
beautiful blonde school marm, herding her
charges back from the street (we were speeding along at a fantastic 25
M.P.H.). I couldn't
get this beautiful teacher from my mind,
consequently I stepped into a hole of hot ashes and
severely burned my foot. While my foot was
healing I berated myself for nearly losing a
foot over a pretty blonde; but soon I lost more,
my head and my heart. She became my wife!
Our much loved, but rather odd looking fire
truck had to be retired. It was put to pasture
on Missouri Ave. As more streets were being
paved, and New Port Richey was continuing to grow.
The city fathers bought a second hand
La-France fire truck solid rubber tired five
hundred fifty gallon pumper to be used with our
brand-new red fire hydrants. This pumper was
our pride and joy: as long as we could keep
it on the pavement. On the pavement we went
forward, in the sand we went down! Our next
piece of equipment was also a pumper. This
was a then modern truck with air filled tires
also smaller and lighter than the LaFrance.
It served well in sand. Both of these trucks
had 100 gallon tanks on them. Attached was
about 300 feet of 1 1/2 hose, on a small reel.
A big day came when we were called to an
out of town fire, which gave us valuable experience. We had to pump
water from a lake.
The buildings burned, but we saved the lake!
(You can't win them all!) However, most of our
fires were woods fires. Most
of this area consisted of heavy brush and palmetto, grape
vines, oaks and pines. With few roads to act
as fire breaks, we had some fires that were
very severe. I remember many fires that were
higher than our tallest buildings. Many were the
times we had to turn tail and run. However, as
we grew and with more experience, more and
newer equipment, we learned to control these
wild fires and they'll never be as wild again.
Then we had pretty much the same fire alarm
signals as now, except we did not have many
telephones. Also, our electricity was turned
off at midnight. The town
was divided into
four zones and after midnight the alarm was
two quick blasts from a revolver or shotgun.
One night, our night policemen came into
contact with a twelve foot alligator. He emptied
his revolver into the gator so fast the town was
soon filled with firemen in old-fashioned long
underwear, and nightshirts flapping in the
breeze. Another time a man heard a
commotion in his hen house and
thought that a wild
animal was running among his hens. Grabbing
his double barrel shotgun he dashed to the hen
house and was leaning over the fence peering
into the hen house when just at that moment
his old hound dog ran up behind him and
stuck his cold nose up under his night shirt,
causing him to fire both barrels killing six
hen! Naturally, the fire department was
swiftly on the scene. We could only comfort the man.
While fighting a fire down around Miller’s
Bar, I noticed a crate of bottles in the saw
grass. Upon investigation I could see it was
a case of whiskey which someone had lost from
bygone days. Next day half the male population had
"Hangover" and had some very
perturbed females to deal with. This was just
one of the hazards that the fire department dealt with back then.
Another very real
hazard was the many rattlesnakes, which
were always in the brush, and a very real and
In conclusion I wish to mention some facts
that all of us should be very proud of. Our
department actually began
1922, that was before incorporation and this
is 1968, the 46th year. During this whole time we have
never lost a life due to a fire. Not even a
person injured, nor a wrecked truck. Only
some minor cuts and bruises and smoke inhalation. The only fair maiden
ladder was made by a policeman! That was
the night we buried our LaFrance truck so
deep in the sand it took three days to dig
At first we held a "Firemen’s Ball" usually
in the Hacienda Hotel. This was the social
event of the year. Now for the past few
years the firemen give the townspeople and
visitors a free fish-fry on the fourth of
July. These men work most of the night before
preparing hundreds of fish then cooking and
serving them the next day. They also make
several hundreds pounds of cole stow, baked
beans, coffee, etc. They put in about 20 hours
of hard work, for our pleasure and also to
encourage us to keep off the busy holiday
highways, that we may have a better chance